What to expect at CES 2020: Ivanka Trump, flying cars, sex toys and 8K TVs—oh my!
Flying cars, sex toys, 8K TV, even Ivanka Trump. That's some of what to expect from the tech industry's annual pilgrimage to the desert.
CES, the mammoth tech trade show organized by the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), will draw some 170,000 people from around the world to Las Vegas to launch products and services—but also to make deals and schmooze with one another.
For the consumer watching from afar (since the show isn't open to the public), the best part of CES often can be the range of what's there, from the weird to the wonderous to the stuff that makes us all ask just "why."
Over the years, it has transitioned from just the gadgets and gizmos consumers can't wait to get their hands on, featuring many companies the average consumer might do a double take over.
"Every company is becoming a tech company," says Gary Shapiro, CEO of the CTA.
Who's going to CES
Among the who's who on the speaker lineup this year are Salesforce chairman and co-CEO Marc Benioff, Delta CEO Ed Bastian, Samsung's consumer electronics CEO Hyun-Suk Kim, and Daimler AG chairman Ola Källenius.
In a controversial turn for some, Ivanka Trump will also take the stage, to advocate on administration plans for employer-led strategies that invest in reskilling workers, creating apprenticeships and developing K-12 STEM education programs.
As Rachel Sklar tweeted: "This is a terrible choice on so many levels but also—what an insult to the YEARS AND YEARS of protesting how few women were invited to keynote & being told it was a pipeline problem while similarly-situated men were elevated. There are so many great, qualified women. Shame."
But what's really come out of CES?
To be honest, it's been a while since any single blockbuster product or service was introduced at CES. One main reason: The big tech companies—Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Samsung—reserve the big launches for their own events.
Shapiro concedes that no single trade show producer can possibly meet all of a company's needs. But "the relevancy is the fact that we're sold out."
Still, those big tech companies will be attending CES in one capacity or another, with Amazon and Google, in particular, trying again to convince the public that products that embrace their respective Alexa and Google Assistant virtual assistants and smart home platforms are superior to their rivals.
Apple's back at CES—sort of
Apple's rather public appearance at this year's CES is rare. It won't be exhibiting in a booth—that hasn't happened forever. But Apple's senior director for global privacy, Jane Horvath, will be on a panel with counterparts from Facebook, Procter & Gamble, and Wing Venture Capital, as well as Federal Trade Commission Commissioner Rebecca Slaughter.
What to expect from CES 2020
What you'll also hear plenty about are 5G wireless networks, artificial intelligence and tech that will enable entire smart cities.
Sure, there'll be the usual slew of strange, cool and whacky new products as well, mostly from companies on the show floor you never have heard of and, sadly for them, likely never will.
You can expect a wide range of product categories to be represented: robots, headphones, cameras, computers, and though not an over-the-top wireless show, smartphones, too, maybe even more of the emerging foldable-type handsets.
Here's some of what else you'll hear about:
Streaming stampede continues
Despite all the recent launches, with Apple and Disney joining the congested streaming landscape late last year, the stampede for new entertainment services will continue well into 2020.
At CES, Quibi (pronounced "kwibee") CEO Meg Whitman and founder Jeffrey Katzenberg will showcase the new streaming service. Slated to launch on April 6, Quibi is built around bite-size content, essentially five- to 10-minute episodes from A-listers like Lorne Michaels, Jennifer LopezSophie Turner, Zac Efron, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, and Steven Spielberg.
Separately, execs from Comcast's NBCUniversal are expected to spill further details on the company's own new streaming service Peacock, also set for an April debut.
Digital health—and sex
From hearing aids that leverage AI and machine learning to, yes, sex tech, CES is embracing all aspects of health and wellness.
Consider it an about-face from last year. That's when the CTA stepped into controversy after giving out an innovation award to a sex tech startup Lora DiCarlo for an "adult toy" called Osé, only to subsequently rescind the award. Following outrage over what was viewed as a sexist stance toward a woman-focused product, the CTA apologized and reversed its reversal. Looking to avoid a similar brouhaha this time around, CTA is including pleasure tech in the wellness category.
CES will also be hosting a digital health summit for the 11th time. And Shapiro says doctors can even earn continuing education credits by attending health care-related sessions. "We've seen a huge interest from insurance companies and others basically saying, 'how can technology solve consumer health problems?'" he says. "What is it we can do using technology that deals with the fact we have an aging population?"
Flyings cars and transporters
Segway will be showcasing the new S-Pod "personal transporter" that aims to enhance the way people get around at malls, theme parks and airports, especially for those folks with mobility challenges. The company says it is part of a bigger smart city mission to bring new transportation options to metro areas.
Meanwhile, though CES is not considered a dedicated car show, electric vehicles and self-driving cars are all part of the mix, as are entertainment systems within vehicles.
And Hyundai Motor plans to unveil its concept "Personal Air Vehicle." Translation: flying car. Maybe the future isn't as far off as you might think.
CES wouldn't be CES without the latest in TV tech.
Now that you've purchased a sweet, large-screen 4K television to anchor your home theater—and got it relatively cheaply—the challenge for TV makers, led by usual suspects LG, Samsung, and Sony, will be trying to convince you that what you have now isn't quite good enough. So, CES this time around will be a showcase for 8K sets—never mind that there won't be much to watch in the format just yet, and many average viewers can't even tell the difference between an HD and 4K broadcast. The push for 8K isn't surprising, given how low 4K TV prices have gotten, putting a strain on retailer margins.
Those who take the plunge, will "buy 8K for the future...so they know in three or four years they're not obsolete," says Tom Campbell, chief technologist at the Southern California based Video & Audio Center chain.
If you want to look even further CES attendees will also get to peer at 16K. Even if it'll be years before you'd even think about buying one.
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